Travelling with an ostomy for the first time for any journey can be daunting, to say the least.
It could be months since you've had your surgery or years, but it's safe to say that whenever it is, it's perfectly understandable to have many questions & worries.
Also, you hear of some worries and questions that really put the fear into you that almost put you off travelling such as people querying if their ostomy bag will suddenly blow off mid-flight! From my experience and what I know of others, this has never happened, but regardless, it was a worry in my mind before I flew on a plane post-surgery.
Ant's experience on travelling with a stoma
In this blog post, Ant & myself are going to discuss some of the worries & solutions around ostomy travel & hopefully help you to feel more prepared for when you're ready to take that step.
Watch Ant's thoughts on this below:
I flew to New York (for my first ever time on a plane!) - Amy's perspective
"That's right. This was in 2015, nearly 4 years post-surgery. I'd always dreamt of going to New York and when my Grandad sadly passed away, he left me & my brother some money to go & live out that dream.
Thinking about what to pack and my stoma supplies etc was really quite daunting and the first thing I did was go on to Google & search for blog posts like this to point me in the right direction. I emptied my bag probably 4 times in a 9 hour flight & American Airlines were amazing. The flight was so smooth!
Thankfully, the whole holiday went without a glitch and it was a holiday to remember (even if it was way too hot!)"
Planning ahead & organisation is key to make travelling flow as smoothly as possible. It will also help you to feel more in control. A good thing to do before travelling abroad with an ostomy is to do a few trips away from home in the country you live in to build your confidence. This helped me build my confidence massively after surgery.
Once your surgeon has said you are well enough to travel, then you can do so when you feel ready. It is sensible to not carry anything too heavy if you can help it and also to wear some form of supportwear such as our Level 1 briefs or boxers for travelling, or a waistband. We also have our new bamboo products which are designed to be even softer against your skin.
Some good tips for planning ahead include:
- Working out the number of ostomy bags and supplies (ie wipes and adhesive remover) you use in a day will be a good guide of the amount you take, then probably taking double.
- Make a list of all the ostomy supplies and equipment you need to take.
- Consider if you may require different size ostomy bags ie for flying or on a night if the climate is particularly hot or if a change in diet may increase output. Some people generally use the maxi ostomy bags each night regardless or travel or not.
- If you used closed ostomy bags, definitely consider switching to drainable in case a change in diet etc affects your output and you need to empty more.
- Request your prescription with plenty of time to spare. Giving yourself at least a month before your holiday is good notice, especially to avoid any last minute panics.
- If you usually cut your own bags, either get them cut to size when you order or do all your bag cutting before you go on holiday. Scissors can be classed as dangerous items, and although they are sometimes allowed in your main luggage, some would prefer not taking the risk.
- If you use sprays or liquids, it might be a good idea to change these for wipes where you can and keep liquid to a minimum (in line with the airline's requirements which are usually found online). We know of people who have taken small bottles of ostomy deodorant with them on their travels without any issues.
- Ask your stoma nurse or GP where you can obtain a travel certificate which will explain that you have an ostomy and why you need your supplies. These often include translations in several different languages too which can be super helpful. This can also help ease anxiety about having to explain yourself in front of other people.
- Try & book seats on the plane that are relatively close to the toilet (but preferably not right next to them... I don't think many people want that, but needs must! Aisle seats are also more accessible than window seats.
Knowing what ostomy supplies to pack
Actually knowing what to take can feel like a huge mountain to climb in itself.
- How many bags should you take? I always take twice the amount I need. This gives me peace of mind should I experience any bag leaks from a change in climate or diet, for example.
- What supplies am I allowed to take? All ostomy products are classed as medical essentials, so you can take them through security.
- What about baggage allowance? Many airlines offer extra luggage allowance, usually up to 5kg, for free. To be eligible for this, make a call to "Special Assistance" at least 48 hours before you fly. You can also ask them to request that you have discretion with handling of your medical equipment whilst you pass through security so you don't have to separate everything into clear bags.
- Separate ostomy supplies in your main luggage, hand luggage & a smaller discreet bag for the flight - This way, you will have your supplies on hand should you need them, and if the worst comes to worse and your main luggage gets lost, you still have ostomy supplies to use. Generally, packing the majority of your supplies in your hand luggage is a good idea, but still dividing the rest up between your luggage.
Tips for the few day period up to travelling
- Sticking to the foods you know you are "safe" with a few days before travelling can help to avoid an upset stomach before flying. Cutting down on fatty foods and fizzy drinks especially can reduce excess gas to a minimum that you could experience otherwise during a flight.
- Celebrating & don't want to miss out? If you fancy a glass of fizz or an alcohol beverage, reducing the fizz by stirring a fork through the liquid can help. Most people find that keeping alcoholic drinks to one or two and staying hydrated otherwise helps their flight experience.
- Ask your stoma nurse questions - this goes for any time as well. They are there to help.
- Double check you are happy with what supplies you are taking and that you know everything is easily accessible should you require it.
Tips for the day of travelling
Start the day with a fresh ostomy bag - Fresh ostomy bag filters etc will work most efficiently.
- Minimise fizzy drinks and alcohol and stick to those "safe foods".
- If you feel you have gas in your bag on the flight, pop to the toilet and let it out.
- There is no need to tell any of the cabin crew that you have an ostomy but if this would ease your nerves then there is no harm in it.
- Take a drink with you on board - preferably weak squash or a flat, non-alcoholic drink with minimal caffeine. The humidity in the cabin can often lead to you feeling quite dry and dehydrated.
Most of all, enjoy it as much as you can & remember that holidays are much more than a highlight reel of Instagram photos!
Disclaimer: As always, this post is from our vlogger, Ant's experiences and our Social Media & Marketing Specialist, Amy's experiences with ostomy life & living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Nothing in our blog posts should be taken as medical advice. It's always best to consult a medical professional if you have queries or concerns.
- What is going on holiday like with a stoma?
- What clothes can you wear with a stoma?
- What is stoma supportwear?
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You are so welcome! Have a great holiday!
Thank you for all the tips on travelling I’m off to lanzarote in December first time abroad since my ileostomy in January I’m more settled now with all the advice, cheers
We are so glad to hear of your positive experience! Thank you for sharing this as I know it will help reassure so many.
Have a lovely day!
Thank everyone for their advice. I travelled for the first time in June. I had extra luggage allowance booked but my husband was worried in case the case with my medical items in went missing so we spread everything through our luggage both in the hold and our carry on. It worked perfectly and we had no problems. I did however have to empty my bag (it’s only wee) just as I got to the toilet the seat belt light came on. The hostess said I had to go back to my seat. I pointed to my bag and said I had to empty it she was really good and understood and let me use the toilet.
We would recommend calling the airport if you are wanting to travel with medical spray to see what they allow. Maybe also contact your GP/hospital specialist & request to be placed with another stoma nurse. Stoma nurses really can make such a difference!
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